In this column, I feature comic book reviews written by my students at Oxford College of Emory University. Oxford College is a small liberal arts school just outside of Atlanta, Georgia. I challenge students to read and interpret comics because I believe sequential art and visual literacy are essential parts of education at any level (see my Manifesto!). I post the best of my students’ reviews in this column. Today, I am proud to present a review by Josh Mikos:
Josh Mikos, 18, is a native of Georgia. Currently he is a freshman attending Oxford College of Emory University. Josh plans to attend Goizueta Business School, then attend law school. Josh likes riding his motorcycle, working out, and helping his dad with automotive mechanical work. Josh plans to work in corporate law.
The Manhattan Projects (Vol. 1) by Jonathan Hickman, Nick Pitarra (Artist), Jordie Bellair (Artist)
The Manhattan Projects (Vol. 1), written and illustrated by Jonathan Hickman and Nick Pitarra respectively, lures in anyone with a curiosity about world war II and about government secrets. This comic book was written to red-pill the people on an “alternative” history. Within the first few pages, you learn the Manhattan Project is a front. FDR and the US government are backing a few scientists, but even they don’t know everything that’s going on. There are two main goals of the projects, artificial intelligence and atomic bombs. To create these, the scientists have to go through many dilemmas. However, some of the answers made me question what Hickman was aiming for. Aside from this, I enjoyed the concept behind the book. It is very interesting and very hard to put down. If you, like me, enjoy scientific ideas and have a healthy amount of skepticism then you will like this book.
The book begins with an introduction to the main characters’ birth, twin brothers Robert and Joseph Oppenheimer. General Groves and the US were going to hire Robert, but his crazy brother, Joseph Oppenheimer took his place and was recruited to work in The Manhattan projects. Joseph learns the real intentions behind the projects. They have three main goals, space travel, artificial intelligence, and an atomic bomb. During the war, Japan finds out about the project and even discovers the secret location. They use a gate to send robots into the lab and attack the project. The projects continue though, and eventually leads to great breakthroughs in part because of help from a former Nazi. Eventually, Joseph Oppenheimer discovers the secret to an atomic bomb and annihilates Japan, forcing their surrender. The scientists in the story only want one thing, knowledge. Oppenheimer goes through great lengths to create the numerous inventions thought impossible before.
The Manhattan Projects is science fiction. It doesn’t discuss the history of the atomic bomb. It doesn’t even attempt to follow the history closely. What this story does is make the reader question. It makes you question what the government or any person does and if there is an ulterior motive to their action. I’m reluctant to use this phrase but for lack of better wording, I believe this book will appeal to conspiracy theorists. The narrative shows how the government is hiding things not just from the people but even from the president. This type of story can be interesting to young adults who like sci-fi and don’t believe everything they’re told.
The artwork of this story is amazing. Nick Pitarra accomplishes one of the hardest things: creating real facial expressions. I believe that the reason this series is hard to stop reading is because the intertwined relationship of the writing and the facial expressions. It’s hard to make people feel real in comic books but Hickman and Pitarra created characters that feel real when you look at them. You can feel the ambition in Oppenheimer’s eyes, the fear in Truman’s eyes and face, and any other possible expression in all the characters. Even when introducing the aliens, no facial features feel out of place. This drew me in and made me feel for the characters. Pitarra does an excellent job with the other aspects as well: the colors involved give a feeling of intensity, alarm, and even betrayal at times. The color-palate changes between scenes help establish how the author Hickman wants you to feel.
I thought this comic book was great. I didn’t like the aliens and the impossible ideas. I thought that the book would be more scientific, not breaking some laws of physics. However, aside from my personal bias on these few things, the story was great. The writer, Hickman, never makes you feel that a scene is out of place. Hickman also places great emphasis on creating a strong dynamic between the characters of the story. Because this is a comic book and can’t use to many words, Pitarra fills the missing dialogue you would find in a novel with amazing artwork. These two must have worked hard together to create the feeling of actual people within a sci-fi comic book. If I had to just rate Pitarra’s work, it would be a five-star book. Sadly, I was expecting a more plausible story. Even though it is sci-fi, I had hoped that it would include advanced, not impossible, ideas. Because the impossibilities written into the story removing me from the feeling of the story, I must give The Manhattan Projects a four-star rating.